First published back in June of 1949, British author George Orwell’s last novel was the modern classic entitled ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’.  Since its publication the story has been adapted into film, radio productions and for television on numerous occasions.  The novel has had its fair share of controversy over the years, but nevertheless still remains a modern classic to this day.

DLS Synopsis:
Winston Smith has been happily working as a correctional editor of historical documentation within the Ministry of Truth in London for quite some time now.  In his job Smith is employed to change and correct historical documents to show a more favourable impression of the government of Oceania – an oppressive dictatorship known simply as The Party.

Smith’s existence is a depressingly claustrophobic one.  Although he feels somewhat challenged by his day-to-day role at the ‘Minitrue’, the oppressive governmental rule over everyone within Oceania has gradually worn Smith down to a state of bubbling hatred.  The constant surveillance of ‘Big Brother’ via their large television screens and the ever-looming threat of the ‘Thought Police’ and their spies, have all contributed to the unspoken misery of Smith’s life.

However, away from the eyes of Big Brother, Smith has begun a diary detailing his hatred of The Party.  Aware that if the Thought Police detect that Smith is even entertaining negative thoughts against The Party, then his punishment will undoubtedly be death.  Smith nevertheless secretly continues with his dangerous diary keeping.  It is his only grasp on a dwindling sanity.

But everything surrounding his quiet rebellion changes when he is surreptitiously passed a note from a fellow employee at the Minitrue.  A note from an attractive female engineer named Julia that simply states “I love you”.  A sign of affection that in itself is a severe crime within Airstrip One.

Smith is more than intrigued; he’s utterly overwhelmed by the gesture.  And before long the two are meeting in a quiet clearing in the woods out in the countryside where Big Brother’s ever-watchful-eyes cannot see them.  Their relationship blossoms, with their joint hatred and rebellion against The Party bringing them closer together.

And as their secret relationship continues to go unnoticed by The Party, Smith finds himself suddenly approached by an Inner Party member named O’Brien.  A man who intrigues Smith.  A man who seems in tune with Smith’s own thoughts and offers a glimpse of something else.  Something more meaningful.  Smith is passed a book that consolidates his thoughts, offers guidance and hope as well as a greater understanding of their enemy.  The book is ‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism’ by Emmanuel Goldstein.  A book which for the first time in his life, offers hope...

DLS Review:
Written during a period when communism was at the very forefront of everyone’s mind, Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ offers a cold and  bleakly depressive glimpse of a future world where an advanced communism has created a horrific dystopian society where the dictating government controls the superstate with an unbelievably oppressive and controlling rule.

The ever-watchful eye of Big Brother has an instantly claustrophobic impression on the tale.  From the outset there is nothing but quietly spoken misery and nerve-chilling fear projected from the powerfully emotive tongue of Winston Smith.  The constant oppression and the growing need for fighting against The Party are delivered with absolute gusto from the perspective of our narrator.  Sympathy and emotional bonding between Smith and the reader is established from within just a few pages.  And from here on Orwell weaves a shocking tale of an utterly horrifying dystopian future.

Where Orwell’s earlier novel ‘Animal Farm’ (1945) portrayed the dangers of communism through a satirical remoulding of the Russian Bolshevik revolution, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ instead goes for an all-out assault on the reader with a projected view of a world that has become thoroughly immersed in an oppressive communist reign.  There are instantly recognisable similarities and strong influences drawn from the likes of ‘We’ (1924) by Yevgeny Zamyatin or indeed ‘Brave New World’ (1931) by Aldous Huxley.  However, in spite of the obvious inspirations (outside of Orwell’s own experiences of the Cold War), ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ still explores much more ground with these fundamental ideas of dystopian fiction than any of its predecessors have done.

There’s no avoiding the fact that this is a saddening vision of humanity in the future.  It’s bleak and chilling with a meticulously callous nature.  The ideas lurking behind the storyline are like towering billboards over a cold cityscape, all of which are what really bring about the real strength of the novel.  Orwell takes no prisoners as he hammers home his messages on the way communism could potentially take humanity (although perhaps not to such an exaggerated degree).  Like a sledgehammer repeatedly swung at the reader’s face, the unrelenting bombardment of fear, censorship, hopelessness, oppression, injustice and the removal of everything that makes us human, makes for a truly hard-hitting and impactful read.

The story itself is utterly mesmerising.  Although clogged down with the oppressive dictatorship, the burning beacon that is Winston Smith’s own lingering humanity becomes so much more meaningful.  The reader quickly becomes completely sympathetic to his rebellious cause.  And as the storyline gradually picks up momentum, the spiralling events just consume the entirety of the tale until it’s too late and the brilliantly executed final section of the novel sees to a shocking but altogether fitting conclusion.

‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ is an undisputed masterpiece.  It’s as compelling to read as it is powerful and provoking.  Its messages aren’t quietly whispered but instead beaten into the bloodied face of the reader.  It’s wrapped up in layer upon layer of despair, with only a slither of hope breaking through.  And good god does it deliver the goods.

The novel runs for a total of 326 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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